Penn State behind strong pitching and timely hitting beat Kent State 3-2 Tuesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Penn State starting pitcher Nick Hedge, who made his first career start Tuesday night, was solid in his debut scattering five hits and giving up two runs in four innings of work.
“He did well,” head coach Robbie Wine said after the game. “He goes out there and does his job for three innings and it’s exactly what we needed.”
Penn State got the scoring open in the bottom of the first inning after a J.C. Coban RBI single up the middle scoring Elliot Searer for the Nittany Lions early 1-0 lead. Two batters later senior Luis Montesinos extended the Penn State lead to 2-0 with an RBI single to left scoring Taylor Skerpon. Montesinos advanced to second on the play after Kent State leftfielder Alex Miklos bobbled the ball in left.
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The two early runs were not a surprise for the Penn State coaching staff.
“It seems like we’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Wine said. “It’s nice to jump out to a lead but it’s also nice to hold it. Other then a pickoff throw that got away defensively we played well, minimized the walks and that’s why we won 3-2.”
Kent State made its first ever appearance at the College World Series last year season in Omaha. The Cinderella Golden Flashes even beat top-seeded Florida 5-4 before losing to two-time defending national champion South Carolina ( semifinalist last year) and finishing sixth in the country.
Kent State has not had the overall success it did last year. However, the Golden Flashes continue to be led by sophomore shortstop Sawyer Polen. Going into Tuesday’s contest, Polen was hitting .363 with a team-high 41 hits. Senior center fielder Evan Campbell leads the squad with 19 RBIs, while junior second basemen Derek Toadvine leads the team with 26 runs scored. The trio has combined for 112 hits, 69 runs, and 48 RBIs this season.
Penn State pitching did a good job keeping Polen, Toadvine, and Campbell in check as the trio was a combined 2-12 with a run scored.
“Rebuilding in college baseball is tough and I think they (the Golden Flashes) are going through a little learning spell right now,” Wine said.
Kent State cut the Penn State lead to 2-1 in the top half of the third after a Zarley Zalewski sacrifice fly to right scored Alex Miklos, after his lead off triple. Kent State would tie the game at two apiece in the top of the fourth after T.J. Sutton grounded out to second scoring Evan Campbell.
Freshman left fielder James Coates would give Penn State a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth after hitting a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Aaron Novak.
Junior Ian Parvin came in relief for Hedge in the top half of the fifth inning. Parvin was impressive striking out two in the inning. Parvin ran into trouble in the top half of the seventh inning allowing a lead off single to Tommy Monnot.
Parvin then attempted to pick off Monnot at first, but the throw over to first was wild allowing Monnot to advance to second. Cody Lewis relieved Parvin with 2-2 count against Alex Miklos. Miklos would ground out to shortstop advancing Monnot to third. Lewis then would strike out Zalewski and Toadvine to end the inning.
The decision to pull Parvin in favor of Lewis was a move coach Wine was pleased with. “I’m glad he (pitching coach Jason Bell) made that move,” said Wine. “Nothing against Ian Parvin but he doesn’t have a pitch to put a guy away right there and we felt like Cody does.”
Lewis, who earned the save, finished the game allowing one hit and no runs over three innings of work while striking out three.
Penn State now improves to 7-21 while Kent State drops to 14-16.
Penn State plays hots to Bucknell at 6 p.m. Wednesday with Patton Taylor scheduled to start for the Nittany Lions. Taylor has struggled this year with 0-3 record and a 13.50 ERA.